The year 2011 was an interesting year for many northern and central European countries, as the weather was more than unpredictable in the spring and summer. However, in most countries, the climatic conditions thankfully settled down in the late summer and fall. The result of this slightly difficult year of weather in France was a set of surprisingly small yields, but overall, these yields were of a higher quality than those harvested in certain previous years. A fantastic set of wines was also made in Italy and Spain, and the Rioja wines - when released - are set to be very good indeed. Austria also had superb year in 2011, with almost fifty percent more grapes being grown and used for their distinctive Gruner Veltliner wines than in the year before. Possibly the European country which had the finest 2011, though, was Portugal, with wineries in the Douro region claiming this year to be one of the best in decades for the production of Port wine, and the bright, young Vinho Verdes wines.
In the New World, the Pacific Northwest saw some of the best weather of 2011, and Washington State and Oregon reportedly had a highly successful year, especially for the cultivation of high quality red wine grapes. Chile and Argentina had a relatively cool year, which certainly helped retain the character of many of their key grape varietals, and should make for some exciting drinking. South Africa had especially good weather for their white wine grape varietals, particularly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and many South African wineries are reporting 2011 as one of their best years in recent memory.
MourvÃ¨dre is a fascinating and ancient grape varietal, thought to have been introduced to Spain by the ancient Phoenicians over two thousand years ago. Since then, it has found a home in many regions of France, and has gone on to be a key grape varietal in the New World, where it is often blended with Grenache and Syrah varietals to make a beautifully rounded and balanced red wine. The MourvÃ¨dre grape itself is renowned for holding a complex set of flavours, which are often described as meaty or gamey, with plenty of bramble fruit notes. As such, they are often served with dark meats, and are enjoyed in many countries across the globe. The grapes are not the easiest to cultivate, as they require plenty of sunshine alongside well irrigated soil. However, their quality and unique attributes mean that wineries all over the globe continue to persevere with this special varietal.
It isn't difficult to see how California became one of the world's most important, successful and influential wine regions. Since the first vines were planted in the state by Spanish pioneers in the 18th century, the region has made the most of its ideal climatic conditions, which range from hot, dry and arid to windswept and cool, for vineyard cultivation and wine production. Today, California has almost half a million acres under vine, and hundreds of independent and well established wineries dotted across its vast wine-making areas. Californian wines range from the traditional, and those emulating fine Old World wines, to the experimental and unique, and it is the home to many of the world's most exciting and trailblazing wineries producing excellent bottles for the global market.
Country: United States
Whilst there are several strains of native grape varietals in the United States, it was the introduction of the European species which prompted the country to begin producing wines on a large scale. Over the past few centuries, experimentation and cross-breeding has produced great successes in regards to the quality and suitability of the fruit grown in states such as California, Oregon, Washington and New York, and the past few decades have seen New World wines from the United States reach much higher standards. Arguably the finest United States wines have always come out of California, where the climate and terrroir is most suitable for fine wine production. The masterful blending of classic grape varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, amongst others including Syrah and Chardonnay, have had world beating results in recent years, prompting many to suggest that there has never been a better time for buying and drinking United States wines.
Appellation: Central Coast
When it comes to New World wines, there are few regions quite as impressive or important as California. Running down the Pacific coast of the state, we find the long and narrow Central Coast region, a huge stretch of land which covers over two hundred and fifty miles, and features of 90,000 acres of vineyards, owned by dozens of wineries. The wineries of Central Coast are keen to show the world just how good their terroir can be for viticulture, and with the help of plenty of modern techniques and state of the art wine-making methods, they are busily making superb wines from the French and Italian grapes which thrive there. By far the most important grapes of the region are the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varietals which flourish under the hot sunshine, but dozens of varietals grow very well in Central Coast, making this a varied and fascinating region to explore.